CheeseIsGood's Million Dollar Musings - MLB DFS Strategy: Friday, August 5th

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Hey you. Yeah, you. Happy Friday! We close out the week with a big ole 13-game slate that appears to be a lot of middle ground at first glance. By that I mean pitchers that are good enough you don’t love playing against them, but not so good that you want to roster them either. But, we’ll see what we find as dig through all of this.

There are a bunch of spots with a small chance of some weather issues, so be sure to double check the Roth report this afternoon, particularly if you’re playing something in the Pittsburgh-Baltimore game.

Friday Night Pitching

Well, hmmm. Going back to what I said in the intro, there is a lot of middle ground tonight. There is almost no point at which you can stop a draw a clear line or rule out anyone completely. I like to have some tiers to begin with, but other than Cease and Ray at the top, it’s just a tremendous glob of decent pitchers that all deserve to be mentioned. So, here you go, all these guys look at least moderately playable:

Dylan Cease at Rangers
Robbie Ray vs Angels
Nestor Cortes at Cardinals
Framber Valdez at Guardians
Eric Lauer vs Reds
Patrick Sandoval at Mariners
Corey Kluber at Tigers
Sean Manaea at Dodgers
Tony Gonsolin vs Padres
Josiah Gray at Phillies
Kyle Gibson vs Nationals
Tyler Mahle vs Blue Jays
Jose Berrios at Twins
Dean Kremer vs Pirates
Madison Bumgarner vs Rockies
Ian Anderson at Mets
Mitch Keller at Orioles
Glenn Otto vs White Sox

Yuck. That’s way too much, and it’s not as if most of it is great. So, this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to talk about the 2-man top tier, and then I’m going to start playing the salary game.

Maybe Just Play These Two And Be Done With It

Dylan Cease at Rangers – 33.3% K, 10.4% BB, 2.01 ERA, 3.15 SIERA
Robbie Ray vs Angels – 27.5% K, 8.3% BB, 4.11 ERA, 3.51 SIERA

These two aces do not have the control that we like to see from top pitchers. But they do have the upside, and they do have the matchups.

Robbie Ray has been horrendous in his last two starts, both against Houston. Prior to that, he had been great with seven straight quality starts and three double-digit strikeout games. The old Robbie Ray was matchup-proof, in neither a good or bad way. It was just him vs himself, and he could dominate good teams or get shelled by bad teams or vice-verse. The new Robbie Ray, who is still inconsistent, but not nearly as much does appear to be much more matchup dependent. All of his good starts this season have come against weaker competition, which his bad starts have come against good competition (and basically just Houston). This Angels team doesn’t strike out nearly as much against left-handed pitching, but Ray doesn’t need help with the strikeouts. He needs help with walks and power. That is exactly what he gets here, low walks and low power. I am never going to feel fantastic about Ray chalk, but at this salary in this matchup, he’s going to be my highest owned pitcher.

The metrics imply that there has to be some regression coming soon for Dylan Cease, but this dude has not allowed more than one run in a start since May. Goodness gracious, there is obviously way more to it then just saying everything has gone his way. This may well be one of those pitchers where the high walk rate can be viewed as effective wildness, and playing in tandem with his limited hard contact. The strikeouts have not been consistent, but he does have the highest swinging strike rate on the slate, and there is no doubting the upside. The matchup is completely middle of the road, and with his real-life consistency and clear upside potential, he stands out above every other non-Ray pitcher on this slate.

I prefer Ray for the salary, but where it doesn’t matter, I’ll take Cease first.

Let’s Cut Some Stuff

At this point, I am going to get really picky with salary and matchup. What I’ll say is that there is virtually no gap between any other pitchers on this entire slate, and I would not argue with you if you wanted to cast such a wide net tonight that you catch 15+ SP in your pool. But, for me, all these guys miss the cut:

Sean Manaea and Tony Gonsolin – You don’t have to play against the Dodgers and Padres on this slate.

Josiah Gray – The walks and homers are far more consistent than the strikeouts and innings.

Taijuan Walker and Ian Anderson – Walker is too expensive for the risk in the matchup, and Anderson is not suddenly trustable in tough matchups because he had one good start.

Tyler Mahle – Great pickup for the Twins, but tonight is not the night with his hard hits and fly balls to righties.

Nestor Cortes – Too expensive for 90 pitches against St. Louis.

I Guess, Maybe

Corey Kluber at Tigers
Framber Valdez at Guardians
Eric Lauer vs Reds
Patrick Sandoval at Mariners
Jose Berrios at Twins

Corey Kluber is a right-handed pitcher facing the Tigers. That alone checks a lot of boxes. In his last start, Kluber had a season high 10 strikeouts, which is all nice and good and wonderful. Prior to that, his strikeouts looked like this – 2, 3, 7, 5, 1, 6, 6, 3, 5. My assumption is going to be that even in a good matchup, the strikeouts are an outlier and should not be expected. But the good news is that even if we drop those strikeouts, Kluber has the 2nd lowest walk rate of any pitcher in the league and that consistency gives him a lot of safety against a low power opponent. He’s been capped at 90 pitches, which combined with the low strikeouts makes this more of a play for some safety and less for ceiling. I can’t see this being useful on FD, but he is going to be in the DK pool.

Speaking of safety, Framber Valdez has an incredible 17 straight quality starts. This guy is just a tremendous and drastically underappreciated real-life ace. He’s even seen a few more strikeouts recently, but that should never be the expectation. This matchup plays right into his hands with a bunch of ground ball hitters and I fully expect yet another quality start here. This is just a lot to pay for a low strikeout pitcher in a low strikeout matchup on a slate with this many good pitchers. I will just tell you that if I’m not playing Ray/Cease, Valdez is my first pivot on DK.

Eric Lauer still has his full season numbers propped up from those two random big starts in April. Since then, he has topped five strikeouts just twice in his last 10 starts. This guy is just not a strikeout pitcher. But he’s still a decent pitcher, and this is a very good matchup for a lefty, with the Reds ranking 28th in ISO with the 7th highest strikeout rate. I can’t make much case to play him ahead of Ray on FD with the salary being higher, but $8,000 on DK makes him probably the 3rd most popular pitcher on this slate. I like the salary, and I like the matchup, but I still don’t love the pitcher. This is one where I will watch the ownership, and if he does in fact end up chalky-ish as the SP3, I’m going to swap to Kluber or up to Valdez.

Patrick Sandoval is supposed to be a strikeout upside pitcher, and he kind of sort of is with a decent 24.2% K rate and three starts of 8+ K in his last eight outings. But at this point, the walks and lack of innings are much more trustable than the strikeouts. This Mariners team is tough and they have a lot of patient batters that should give him some trouble. This is yet another guy that completely misses my cut on FD, and is just sort of barely hanging on because of his DK salary. I prefer Lauer and Kluber ahead of him in this range.

The full season numbers for Jose Berrios are a slightly below average 21.6% K rate with a good 5.5% walk rate, a completely acceptable 3.87 SIERA and a rough looking 4.96 ERA, mostly due to home runs. The recent numbers are more optimistic, with a 31.7% K rate and his same great control over the past month, leading to a 2.90 ERA and 2.66 SIERA. If we were to assume the recent stretch is an outlier on the good side, and the early season struggles were an outlier on the bad side, then we simply end up with 2021 Jose Berrios. 26.1% K, 5.8% BB, 3.52 ERA, 3.65 SIERA. This is a risk/reward matchup with quite a few high strikeout bats, but a lot of power. I like him for $7,700 on DK and will play him ahead of Lauer and Kluber in this price range.

Salary Considerations

Kyle Gibson vs Nationals
Dean Kremer vs Pirates
Mitch Keller at Orioles
Madison Bumgarner vs Rockies
Glenn Otto vs White Sox

The more I dig through this slate, the more I plan to just play Ray/Cease and let everyone else overthink it. Several of these pitchers are going to have big games, that’s just the way baseball works, but trying to predict which ones it will be is a fool’s errand tonight. This is going to leave me narrowing my pool and being extremely picky with any spend ups past the top two. I’m more looking to salary savers if not just going with Ray/Cease.

While there are a bunch of guys here at good prices, the stand out looks like Kyle Gibson. He is just $7,000 on both FD and DK, and facing a Nationals team whose new lineup ranks 27th in ISO against right-handed pitching. Gibson is not a great pitcher at all against lefties, but the lefties he’ll face tonight are basically nonsense. Gibson is neither a safe pitcher nor an upside pitcher, but is an OK pitcher at a good salary in a good matchup.

With this slate being as big and wide open as it is, I do not see any need to play either pitcher in Baltimore if we still have weather concerns at lock. If it clears up, both Dean Kremer and Mitch Keller are viable pivots off of Gibson. Kremer looks like a BABIP dependent strike thrower with a limited pitch count. Even against Pittsburgh, I don’t love that. Mitch Keller has the tougher matchup, but he is starting to show signs of living up to his pedigree. He has four straight quality starts, but still with just average strikeouts and control that is a bit inconsistent from start to start. These guys are fine, but pretty unnecessary.

Madison Bumgarner can still pile up innings, but he has one good start and a bunch of nonsense with no strikeout ability. Even on the road, the Rockies have too much right-handed power to chase this low ceiling.

The true cheap nonsense on this slate would be Glenn Otto, down at $5,800 on DK against the White Sox. Otto is not good, but he’s been almost close to average recently, and his minor league numbers suggest that he should end up as something close to an average pitcher. But as bad as the White Sox are against righties, they still don’t come with a lot of strikeouts, and there still some power risk, plus Otto has only topped 90 pitches once in his last seven starts. It all just seems unnecessary.


This is a strange slate. There is so much pretty good pitching that you could really make a case to just play everyone. My strong lean here is to go the complete opposite direction, and just play almost no one. Robbie Ray and Dylan Cease are going to be the chalk here, and they are not without risk, but they are also just very clearly the best options here in my mind. I expect that somebody will outscore them, but it’s a random guess at best who that might be.

On FD, my first preference is spending up to Cease, but with Ray at just $9,400, I’ll have more exposure there. I will then consider a couple pivots in MME with guys like Jose Berrios, Eric Lauer and Corey Kluber. I wouldn’t yell at you for playing anything else in this range like Josiah Gray or Patrick Sandoval as well. From there, it’s all the way down to Kyle Gibson at $7,000.

On DK, a Cease/Ray pairing leaves you with $3,800 per bat, which is quite doable, but will lock you out of some good lineup builds. I’ll mix in a little Framber Valdez, then go down to the group of Corey Kluber, Jose Berrios, Patrick Sandoval and Eric Lauer for a little bit of savings. Then we can get a little more savings with Kyle Gibson, and that ends my primary player pool. Because of salary constraints, I might end up with a couple shares of Dean Kremer, Mitch Keller and even Glenn Otto, but I would prefer to skip everything below $7K.

Friday Night Bats

Because of the state of this pitching slate, it is not much easier to sort through all the offense. The vast majority of teams on this slate fall firmly into a muddled bucket of nebulous, murky globs of potential stacks. Nebulous, what a great word. I don’t think we’ve ever Mused with that word before, let’s make that a thing. Guess I need to learn what it means.

I’m going to list two tiers of offenses, but really the whole slate is one big tier:

Top Tier Offense

Milwaukee Brewers vs Robert Dugger
Philadelphia Phillies vs Josiah Gray
TB Rays at Bryan Garcia
Boston Red Sox at Zack Greinke
KC Royals vs Josh Winckowski
Houston Astros at Hunter Gaddis
NY Yankees at Dakota Hudson

Tier Two Offense

LA Dodgers vs Sean Manaea
SD Padres vs Tony Gonsolin
Seattle Mariners vs Patrick Sandoval
Colorado Rockies at Madison Bumgarner
Arizona Diamondbacks vs German Marquez
Toronto Blue Jays at Tyler Mahle
Chicago White Sox at Glenn Otto
NY Mets vs Ian Anderson
Atlanta Braves at Taijuan Walker
Baltimore Orioles vs Mitch Keller

What Do We Do With This Nebulous Glob?

There is a fairly strong chance that nebulous does not mean what I think it means, and an even stronger chance that I don’t know how to correctly use it in a sentence. And yet, I am certain it is the right word to describe this hitting slate.

I am not going to waste your time or my time writing a breakdown of every matchup on this slate, only to end every sentence with, “and so this is also a good tournament stack, but not great enough to prioritize.”

There are very few bad pitchers on this slate, and for the most part, the better offenses are facing better pitchers. The few sort-of exceptions would be the Rays, Red Sox and Royals, kind of sort of the Yankees, and then maybe the Brewers and Astros with their unknown opponents.

I would say that Bryan Garcia, Josh Winckowski and Zack Greinke are the worst pitchers on this slate, which puts the Rays, Royals and Red Sox in the top of the top tier. But there are problems here, as there are everywhere. If Garcia doesn’t pitch well, it just becomes a bullpen game. Zack Greinke will get hit, but he also still has real-life ability and doesn’t beat himself, while on the other side, the Royals are the Royals. If I’m picking out one thing out of this group, it is Royals lefties, which brings us back to the well on Vinnie Pasquantino and M.J. Melendez and then tossing a cheap dart at Michael Massey. The Red Sox are Rafael Devers and stack, while the Rays are Brandon Lowe and stack.

There is nothing we can do to break down the matchup for the Astros and Brewers. Hunter Gaddis has a cool name and just 10 innings above Double-A. We just have no idea, other than to say that he had strikeout ability with a ton of fly balls in the minors. My lean here is to favor the Astros bats, knowing that the fly balls are more likely to show up than the strikeouts. Officially, they are my favorite stack and Yordan Alvarez is my top individual bat, but we can’t pretend like we actually have any idea about anything other than the coolness of the name Hunter Gaddis.

Robert Dugger has a little more track record than Gaddis, but still just 82 major league innings scattered over multiple seasons and some out of the bullpen. He had a bizarrely high 32.7% K rate in 12 innings earlier this season, with nothing in his history to suggest that is real. If he struggles, it becomes a bullpen game in a hurry, and this is just a stack ‘em up situation.

The Phillies and Yankees are the other teams that hit my top tier, with the Phillies facing the risk/reward matchup against Josiah Gray and the Yankees against the low strikeout ground balls of Dakota Hudson. Kyle Schwarber and Aaron Judge are top of the slate options, but like everything else, otherwise I’m just stacking. The Yankees are officially my #2 stack on this slate after Houston.
Everything else on this entire slate is just part of a nebulous dart throwing party. That sounds like a fantastic party. I am now wondering to myself, if you know someone who is always in the way and causing trouble and being annoying, but you don’t really know why, could that person be considered a Nebulous Jabroni?

I am obviously just typing nonsense because there is nothing useful to say about this slate. I really do not feel like I’d be doing you any favors by trying to break down more of this glob to just come to the same conclusion everywhere. It’s certainly possible to do it, I can name another 25 hitters that look like solid upside plays, but they are all tied, and none of them are can’t miss.

My official recommendation on this slate is to wait for projected ownership, and if anything is chalky, cross that off. Then take what’s left and full stack with the best bats in your stack. This is not a slate where I want to overthink it with non-Judge Yankees stacks or non-Alvarez Astros stacks, unless it is entirely necessary for salary. It’s also not a slate where I can make much case to try and be drastically overweight on any one player or any one stack. If you think you see that one thing that is ahead of the pack, it won’t be hard to get over the field on it, I just know that I don’t see that one thing.

Let’s Cliff Note and make some lists.


Nebulous. What does it mean? It now means something very specific to me, and I really hope that the real-life word means something close to what I think it means. Good times!

OK, here’s what I am doing – There is no way I am going to try and pick out a lineup full of individual bats. There are far too many options, with all of them either being in sub-optimal matchups, or with too much unknown in the matchup. I also don’t see any offense or even small group of offenses that stand out enough to prioritize. This makes it a full-stack, spread out early and often slate. That doesn’t mean you have to do it that way if you see something you love, I just don’t see that thing to love.

My favorite stacks – Astros, Yankees, Phillies, Royals, Brewers, Rays, Red Sox

My next favorite stacks – Blue Jays, Mets, Dodgers, Mariners, Braves, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Rockies, Padres

My favorite individual bats – Yordan Alvarez, Aaron Judge, Kyle Schwarber, Rafael Devers, Brandon Lowe, Kyle Tucker, Vladimir Guerrero, Mookie Betts, Juan Soto

My next favorite individual bats – Pete Alonso, Trea Turner, Salvador Perez, Paul Goldschmidt, Rowdy Tellez, Anthony Rizzo, Ronald Acuna

My favorite values – Vinnie Pasquantino, Michael Massey, David Peralta, Darick Hall, Nick Castellanos, Yadiel Hernandez, Trey Mancini, Jarren Duran, Nick Senzel, Carlos Santana

My favorite words – Jabroni, Nebulous

My favorite term of non-endearment – Nebulous Jabroni

Image Credit: Imagn

This DFS content is a part of our Premium Content Schedule and designed to help you build better lineups on DraftKings, FanDuel, Yahoo!, SuperDraft, and other daily fantasy contest providers. Access MLB Projections, Expert Rankings, Projected Ownership, MLB DFS Picks, and other Data Tools using this content hub. For our world-class optimizer that offers a suite of tools and information designed to help you crush the competition, please head to LineupHQ!

Happy Thursday! We’ve got an 8-game slate with a pretty good mix of everything. You can find a reason to spend up or down at both pitching and hitting, and make a case for most stacks, or power hunting with individual bats. I end up with a very condensed player pool on both sides, which is a nice change from the ‘hey, play a little bit of everything’ place I’ve landed on a lot of recent slates.

The weather is just a little sketchy in a few spots, but for now, I’m just assuming everything is a full go. I would just recommend tuning into Crunchtime to double check, especially if you’re joining me in playing Jeffrey Springs in Detroit.

Thursday Night Pitching

I quickly see two tiers of pitchers, based as much on pricing than skills. I am quickly crossing most of the pitchers of the off my list tonight and ending up with a condensed pool:

An Ace And Three Other Guys

Justin Verlander at Guardians – 25.6% K, 4.6% BB, 1.81 ERA, 3.36 SIERA
Alek Manoah at Twins – 22.6% K, 5.2% BB, 2.43 ERA, 3.73 SIERA
Kyle Wright at Mets – 24% K, 7.2% BB, 2.93 ERA, 3.52 SIERA
Carlos Carrasco vs Braves – 23.1% K, 6.4% BB, 3.79 ERA, 3.65 SIERA

These are four good pitchers, as evidenced by their ERA’s, SIERA’s and low walk rates. But I am equally as uninspired by their lack of ace-level strikeout ability. Justin Verlander has quite clearly the best skill set here with both the highest strikeout rate as well as the lowest walk rate, all of which gives him the best real-life numbers as well. He is also as steady as they come with pitch count and innings, going at least six innings in 16 of his 19 starts and reaching 7+ innings in 7 of his last 10. This matchup does nothing to help his strikeout upside, but that’s not really what we’re paying for here. What I will say on Verlander, as well as the rest of this top tier, is that I don’t see this as a must-spend pitcher slate. But if you’re spending, Verlander is heads and shoulders above the others for me. On DK, he should be the chalk, and while I’ll play him anywhere he fits, I won’t sacrifice everything else to get there. On FD, I’m even less inclined to force him in, but again, if I have the salary without too much issue, he’s absolutely the SP1.

The next closest thing to Verlander is Alek Manoah. He’s a similar style of pitcher, where he’s much more about innings and control and less about per-inning strikeout upside. His matchup gives him more strikeouts than what Verlander faces, but there’s also a lot of power risk here. He left his last start early after being hit on the elbow, but reports are that he is a full go here with no concerns. I do not like him enough to want to pay up for double-aces on DK, while on both sites, he’s priced so close to Verlander that he is simply a good leftover for me tonight.

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About the Author

  • Dave Potts (CheeseIsGood)

  • One of the preeminent baseball minds in all of fantasy, Dave Potts, aka CheeseIsGood, has won contests at the highest levels of both season-long and DFS. He is a two-time winner of a million dollar first place prize in DFS; having won the 2014 FanDuel baseball live final and following that up by taking down a DraftKings Millionare Maker Tournament in 2015. In addition, he’s won the Main Event championship in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship and the NFBC Platinum League, which is the highest buy-in entry league. His consistent success in the NFBC tournaments recently earned him a prestigious spot in their Hall of Fame. Dave can also strum a mean guitar while carrying a tune and if you’re lucky, you’ll see him do so on one of his GrindersLive appearances. Follow Dave on Twitter – @DavePotts2.

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